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Weird Facts & Trivia about history and historical events
- According to tradition, the first engineer to build a bridge across the Tiber in Ancient Rome was given the name Pontifex, meaning "bridge builder." The Pontifex was seen as someone who "connects" people, and that symbolism was so powerful that Roman high priests--including Julius Caesar--later adopted the title Pontifex Maximus. During the Roman Imperial age, the emperor was always the Pontifex Maximus. The title eventually passed from Roman emperors to the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Today, the Pope still carries the title Pontifex Maximus.
- Acupuncture was first used as a medical treatment in 2700 BC by Chinese emperor Shen-Nung.
- Armored knights raised their visors to identify themselves when they rode past their king. This custom has become the modern military salute.
- At the height of its power, in 400 BC, the Greek city of Sparta had 25,000 citizens and 500,000 slaves.
- Bock's Car was the name of the B-29 Bomber that dropped the Atom Bomb on Nagasaki.
- Britain's present royal family was originally named Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The name was changed in 1917, during WW1 because of German connotations. The name Windsor was suggested by one of the staff. At the same time the Battenberg family name of the cousins to the Windsors was changed into Mountbatten.
- Canada declared national beauty contests canceled as of 1992, claiming they were degrading to women.
- Captain Cook lost 41 of his 98 crew to scurvy (a lack of vitamin C) on his first voyage to the South Pacific in 1768. By 1795 the importance of eating citrus was realized, and lemon juice was issued on all British Navy ships.
- Chicago's Lincoln Park was created in 1864. The original 120 acre cemetery had most of its graves removed and was expanded to more than 1000 acres for recreational use.
- Christmas became a national holiday in the US in 1890.
- During the US Civil war, 200,000 blacks served in the Union Army; 38,000 gave their lives; 22 won the Medal of Honor.
- Emperor Nero's lust for excess was most evident in his elaborate parties. According to the ancient writer Seutonius, Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea had a circular main dining room with a roof that revolved day and night, in time with the sky. In what remains of the palace today, there is a large octagonal room with a domed ceiling that some believe is this dining room. The octagonal room has a large dome with an oculus in the middle. It predates the Pantheon--and was probably the inspiration for it. The architects of the Domus Aurea developed an innovative mechanism cranked by slaves, that made the ceiling underneath this dome revolve like the heavens. While the ceiling revolved, perfume was sprayed from the ceiling and rose petals were dropped on the diners. Legend has it there were so many rose petals falling at one dinner that one of the guests was asphyxiated.
- Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98--117 A.D., was celebrated as the greatest of Roman emperors. In fact, for the rest of Roman history, new emperors were honored by the Roman senate with the prayer felicior Augusto, melior Traiano, meaning "may he be more fortunate than Augustus and better than Trajan." In Dante's Divine Comedy, Trajan is the only emperor allowed into heaven.
- Everyone in the Middle Ages believed -- as Aristotle had -- that the heart was the seat of intelligence.
- For decades after Emperor Nero's death, people all over the Roman empire claimed to have spotted him. Several men even claimed to be him, and started popular movements to be reinstated as emperor. Because of his notoriety and the questionable circumstances under which he died (he purportedly stabbed himself to death in hiding outside of Rome), Nero was the Elvis Presley of ancient Rome.
- Former President Cleveland defeated incumbent Benjamin Harrison in 1892, becoming the first (and, to date, only) chief executive to win non-consecutive terms to the White House.
- Fourteenth century physicians didn't know what caused the plague, but they knew it was contagious. As a result they wore an early kind of bioprotective suit which included a large beaked head piece. The beak of the head piece, which made them look like large birds, was filled with vinegar, sweet oils and other strong smelling compounds to counteract the stench of the dead and dying plague victims.
- From its completion in 125 A.D. until 1958, the Pantheon's domed ceiling was the largest unsupported concrete span in the world. It was surpassed only with the construction of the CNIT building in Paris.
- From the Middle Ages up until the end of the 19th century, barbers performed a number of medical duties including bloodletting, wound treatment, dentistry, minor operations and bone-setting. The barber's striped red pole originated in the Middle Ages, when it was a staff the patient would grip while the barber bled the patient.
- Grand Rapids, Michigan was the 1st US city to fluoridate its water in 1945.
- In 1810 US population was 7,239,881. Black population at 1,377,808 was 19%. In 1969 US population reached 200 million.
- In 1865, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, called the Ku Klux Klan.
- In 1892, Italy raised the minimum age for marriage for girls - to 12.
- In 1947, Toys for Tots started making the holidays a little happier for children by organizing its first Christmas toy drive for needy youngsters.
- In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service to protect former presidents and their spouses for their lifetime, unless they decline the protection. Recently, Congress limited the protection of former presidents and their spouses (elected after January 1, 1997) to 10 years after leaving office. President Clinton, who was elected in 1996, will be the last president to receive lifelong protection from the Secret Service.
- In England and the American colonies they year 1752 only had 354 days. In that year, the type of calendar was changed, and 11 days were lost.
- In the Holocaust between 5.1 and 6 million of Europe's 10 million Jews were killed. An additional 6 million 'unwanted' people were also executed, including more than half of Poland's educated populace.
- Many of Rome's most ambitious emperors idolized Alexander the Great. When Julius Caesar was a 33 year-old general in Spain, he wept when he saw a statue of Alexander, lamenting that he had accomplished nothing, while Alexander had conquered the whole world by his age. The schizophrenic emperor Caligula built a bridge of wooden boats across the Bay of Naples and rode back and forth across it on a horse, wearing armor he stole from Alexander's tomb. Emperor Caracalla set out to conquer the same eastern lands Alexander had conquered, and made a great show of visiting his grave in Alexandria, Egypt.
- Martha Washington in the only woman whose portrait has ever appeared on a US currency note. Her portrait was on the face of the $1 silver certificate issues of 1886 and 1891, and on the back of the $1 silver certificate of 1896. Sacagewea and Susan B. Anthony are the only women pictured on a US coin. Both were honored on a dollar coin.
- Members of the Nazi SS had their blood type tattooed on their armpits.
- More than 20,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing in action in the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862. This was the bloodiest one-day fight during the Civil War.
- Napoleon took 14,000 French decrees and simplified them into a unified set of 7 laws. This was the first time in modern history that a nation's laws applied equally to all citizens. Napoleon's 7 laws are so impressive that by 1960 more than 70 governments had patterned their own laws after them or used them verbatim.
- Nevada was the first state to sanction the use of the gas chamber, and the first execution by lethal gas took place in February, 1924.
- New Orleans' first Mardi Gras celebration was held in February, 1826.
- New York's first St. Patrick's day parade was held on March 17, 1762.
- Of the 262 men who have held the title of pope, 33 have died by violence.
- On April 12, 1938, the state of New York passed a law requiring medical tests for marriage license applicants, the first state to do so.
- On August sixth, 1945, during World War Two, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing an estimated 140,000 people in the first use of a nuclear weapon in warfare.
- On Dec. 10th 1901 the 1st Nobel prizes were awarded. Literature - Rene Sully-Prudhomme; Physiology - Emil von Behring; Chemistly - Jacobus van't Hoff; Physics - Wilhelm Roentgen; Peace - Jean Henri Dunant Frederic Passy.
- On December 20, 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union.
- On June 26th, 1945, the charter of the United Nations was signed by 50 countries in San Francisco. (The text of the charter was in five languages: Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.)
- Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.
- President George Washington created the Order of the Purple Heart in 1782. It's a decoration to recognize merit in enlisted men and non-commissioned officers.
- President Lincoln proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1863.
- Richard Nixon was the 1st US president to visit China in February, 1972.
- Roman coins have been dug up in America, suggesting that perhaps the Vikings or Columbus weren't the first Europeans to visit the New World. The coins were found in locations as far afield as Texas, Venezuela and Maine. One stash was found buried in a mound in Round Rock, Texas. The mound is dated to approximately 800 A.D. In the town of Heavener, Okla., a bronze tetradrachm bearing the profile of Emperor Nero was found in 1976. The coin was originally struck in Antioch, Syria, in 63 A.D.
- Seven of the eight US Presidents who have died in office - either through illness or assassination - were elected at precisely 20-year intervals.
- The "Spruce Goose" flew on November 2, 1947, for one mile, at a maximum altitude of 70 feet. Built by Howard Hughes, it is the largest aircraft ever built, the 140-ton eight-engine seaplane, made of birch, has a wingspan of 320 feet. It was built as a prototype troop transport. Rejected by the Pentagon, Hughes put the plane into storage, never to be flown again.
- The 1st 20 African slaves were brought to the US, to the colony of Virginia in 1619, by a Dutch ship.
- The 1st nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus, commissioned by the United States Navy in 1954, made her maiden voyage on Jan. 17, 1955.
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